Friday, November 4, 2011


Three women, one actor explore impact of loss

Express Staff Writer

Hanna Cheek plays three characters in the play “Commencement” which focuses on the impact on three women in the aftermath of a high school shooting.

"Sorry for your loss."

How could four little words sum up the many dimensions that culminate after of an action, natural or otherwise, that causes so much pain? And yet, it's the one word that can bring simplicity to such a complex emotional state.

The anatomy of loss and its aftermath will be explored when Company of Fools presents the specially commissioned play "Commencement," about three women brought together after a Columbine-like high school massacre.

One actress will portray the three characters, who are the mother of the shooter, one of the shooter's victims and the mother of that victim.

Hanna Cheek, who has assumed the role since playwright Clay McLeod Chapman conceived it, will travel to Hailey's Liberty Theatre with the writer to present the show to the public one night only, Friday, Nov. 4.

By the time the curtain falls after the performance at the Liberty, Cheek and Chapman will also have provided a unique interactive experience around the show with students at both Wood River High School and the Community School. Before they leave the valley, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts will host an invitation-only performance as well, part of The Center's current teen-focused exhibition called "Awkward Age: Adolescence and Identity."

In "Commencement," playwright Chapman has gone behind the headlines that surround unbelievable events like that at Colorado's Columbine High School in April 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold massacred 12 students and a teacher.

The massacre provoked national debate regarding gun control and the availability of firearms in the U.S. as well as the nature of high school cliques, subculture, bullying and the role of violent movie and video games in influencing social outcasts.

"Commencement" is a deep exploration of the culture that can breed such unspeakable acts. The stories of the three women commingled in the wake "will leave you wringing your hands in helpless empathy," according to SEE Magazine.

Core Company Artist Denise Simone said "Commencement" is an all-ages production with a story that needs to be told.

The Edmonton Journal offered this:

"Brace yourself for a sobering show with viscous silences that are uncomfortable and thought-provoking. Take your children, even if they sulk. The message matters, and Cheek, as the messenger, delivers it beautifully."

"Company of Fools is very proud that 'Commencement' is our first commissioned and published piece," Simone said, and "that we are able to bring Clay and Hanna, who are incredible artists to our valley."

Playwright Chapman teaches writing at The Actors Studio MFA Program at Pace University and is the creator of the rigorous storytelling session "The Pumpkin Pie Show." Cheek is a part of the show and last teamed up with Chapman in the widely acclaimed piece "Hostage Song."

Jennifer Liebrum:

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